“Is it actually better to be real? Is it?”
Here’s the deal: At this point in the day I had seen four plays, the last of which demanded all of my attention to fully process. I walked to the Mixed Blood Theater ready to be super disappointed in Pinocchio. Also, I saw the Children’s Theatre version of Pinocchio last year and it was maybe the best piece of theater I’ve ever seen. How could any production jump over this bar I had set? Even after finding a seat in the nearly sold-out crowd I was skeptical. Even after it started with a lot of jokes, actually good jokes, I had doubts. I was still ready for this to be some campy version of the old story. Even after the jokes and the presentation of Geppetto as an Italian mobster I was ready to hate it. I was ready to write a review about how this tired story was fodder for a few jokes but nothing more. But I can’t write that review, because it was amazing.
Yes, it started with very self-aware jokes. As it must, after all, wouldn’t a life-sized doll with a giant nose be terrifying? Wouldn’t a cricket live only a week before dying of old age? Once the play alleviated our doubts with humor, they got to it: a new presentation of an old piece of sci-fi. Can a 134 year old Italian story be considered science fiction? Yes. Thank you for asking. This presentation of the story was entirely true to the original story, complete with most of the standard plot points and characters. But it was adapted to be a new telling, both for the sake of uniqueness and to appease a 2017 audience. But not for jokes, not for mocking the original tale, or turning it into something it’s not. These actors distilled the original tale and the original morals of the story and wrapped them in a new context; perfectly presenting them in all of their sincerity: It’s still true that you shouldn’t spend your whole life on ‘Pleasure Island’ or you’ll become a literal jackass. It still matters that you go to school and become a better version of yourself. It’s still hard to be your own conscience but you must! It’s still true that family is important, even when that family is unlikely. It’s still worth wishing upon a star.